So last week I went to see Beach Slang. I didn’t know if I was going to write about the show, but apparently old habits die hard.
I started watching the show as a reviewer. I was trying to isolate the items that I loved, trying to identify and articulate just why James Alex’s performance is so magical, when suddenly I realized that I don’t have to do that any more. I could get out of my own head and enjoy music how I used to. Like a fan.
Reviewers, it turns out, almost stop themselves from feeling. Or at least they are too self aware to let the music flood over them. Looking away from the stage to take notes, the light from your phone screen altering everyone to the fact that you are missing that part of the performance. You are too worried about finding the right word to describe how his voice broke at the perfect moment. Or nailing the insight on how the crowd really connected when he told that joke. All the while, knowing, that if the world only heard the music they wouldn’t need writers like you, they could think for themselves.
But, either fortunately or unfortunately (depending on the mood I am in when you ask me), the entire world doesn’t yet know about Beach Slang. But the ones who do have followed the calling. The fans are able to be transported into the world they envisioned as teenagers while screaming along to the lyrics that they were never articulate enough to express, but feel deeply in their bones.
I am one of those fans. I am thankful that there are musicians like James Alex out there. I am thankful that bands like Beach Slang create music and tour and shake us out of our mundane lives.
I had gotten to see Beach Slang last time they were in Pittsburgh, it was a tiny venue and we all left the room sweaty and spent. (I wrote about it here on CC2K.)
This show was completely different, yet not at all. James Alex took the stage by himself most of the night. He was joined by Beach Slang bassist Ed McNulty, Bleached drummer, a few friends, and audience members at various points in the night. He played Beached Slang songs, Pixies, The Cure, and Replacements covers, and even shout outs from the audience (resulted in a Jawbreaker song). He threw himself out there and never looked back. Through the songs he played solo, he thrashed and screamed, never once letting the audience feel ripped off because there wasn’t anyone behind him. His banter is honest and endearing, never once did his energy dip. I really believe that without art, music,poetry, and the stage he would simply wilt. We all listened and sang along, Beach Slang lyrics resonating even more as we are there in the venue basement together. A room full of disciples.
The show was largely over 21, maybe we are the ones who can identify with what he is saying. Maybe we are the ones who feel those lyrics and those chords so deeply in our bones that they ache. But really it is the kids who need Beach Slang. They need to see what they have and embrace it, before it is nostalgia. They need to feel every moment, every chord, every kiss like it may be their first and it is on fire.
But at least us old folks have something, complacency is a sneaky bastard and he can take over at any time. Beach Slang punches us in the gut and reminds us what it is like to feel things so deeply, like we did when feelings were new, fresh, confusing, and overwhelming.
I will always be a punk rock kid, no matter how old I get. It is good to know that there are other souls out there.